Meb Keflezighi hopes he doesn’t have as much trouble getting around the course in today’s Quad-City Times Bix 7 as he did just getting here.
Because of cancellations and delays, Keflezighi didn’t roll into town until the wee hours of Friday morning, not much more than 24 hours prior to the start of the 42nd annual race through the streets of Davenport.
But he knows the familiar sight of Brady Street hill and the reception he will receive from the friends he has made in the Quad-Cities will help him get through what amounts to a rigorous tune-up for the Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro three weeks from Sunday.
“I’m feeling strong and fit,’’ Keflezighi said during a pre-race party Friday at St. Ambrose University. “I just don’t know if I have the speed. But I feel strong. The big goal is the 26.2 (the marathon) … How I recover and get ready for Rio is the big thing.’’
At 41, he will be the oldest U.S. runner ever to compete in the Olympic marathon. It will be his fourth Olympics, but he long ago became an American running icon.
He won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic marathon, became the first American in 27 years to win the New York Marathon in 2009 and was the first American in 31 years to win the Boston Marathon when he claimed an emotional victory there in 2014.
He also has won the Bix 7 twice and has competed here six other times.
“This place has a special place in my heart with the people and the community,’’ he said.
Keflezighi knew he was going to be in Houston this week for pre-Olympic processing so he decided several weeks ago to make a stop in the Quad-Cities on his way home to the west coast to participate in one of his favorite road races.
His training schedule called for him to do either a 12- or 8-mile tempo run on Saturday anyway.
“So I said I’ll come here and see what happens,’’ he said.
He didn’t count on the voyage being quite so difficult. He was supposed to fly from Houston to Dallas to Moline on Thursday, but he missed a flight and was informed he couldn’t get here until late Friday night.
Instead, he got on a flight that was scheduled to get into Peoria at midnight. It arrived about 2:30 a.m. As of Friday afternoon, he still did not know the whereabouts of his luggage.
But there was nothing wrong with his spirits, especially after going through a workout early Friday afternoon in Davenport.
“I was running on the bike trail where Dan (Breidinger) lives and people were saying ‘Welcome back, Meb,’’’ he said. “They were coming out and giving me high fives. So I think the reception in the race will be good.’’